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"Street Scene" (1931)


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TCM pals, I saw this film last Tuesday and I wanted to share my views with you. I hope that TCM leases this one from the IMAGE company (they released the DVD):

 

Gripping, realistic account of the lives of the inhabitants of New York tenements, during the Depression years, based upon the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Elmer Rice.

 

Long before the Neorrealistic Movement began in Italy, Samuel Goldwyn produced this great picture which depicts the miseries and hardships of a group of working class characters, directed with skill, intelligence and in a very "naturalistic" way, by master director King Vidor, who excelled in this kind of films, dealing with social issues ("The Big Parade" (1925), "The Crowd" (1928), "Hallelujah" (1929) and "Our Daily Bread" (1934)).

 

Sylvia Sidney is magnificent and displays great acting skill in the role of a working girl; she looks pretty, charming, "petite", naive, conveying all the frailty and helplessness her character requires. William Collier Jr. portrays convincingly an idealistic young Jewish College-educated lad, who is in love with Sidney's character.

 

Beulah Bondi is great as well, as a gossipy, mean, bitter woman who's married to a drunken, no-good man. Estelle Taylor is efficient as the basically nice, doomed, adulterous mother of Sylvia Sidney's character. Also in a cast full of stage actors, character player John Qualen, interprets very well a Scandinavian immigrant who works as the janitor of the building in which the events take place.

 

Great landmark score by legendary composer Alfred Newman, which is reminiscent of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". Great camerawork for a movie that was filmed during the first years of Sound Pictures, when films were usually stagey and static.

 

The transfer is far from perfect but, in my opinion, is decent, considering the age of the film.

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I absolutely LOVE this movie! When I first saw it I thought, "Is the whole movie going to take place on the apartment steps?" And by golly it does, too! I love all the attention to the little details! Of course I wouldn't know what NYC was like in 1931, this is exactly what I would imagine life to have been like.

 

Was Marcia Mae Jones one of the little kids who gets evicted from the apartment building? I can't remember.

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Hi Feaito,

Thanks for taking the time for a great review of this movie. I love sylvia sydney ever since i saw her in "Fury" with Spencer Tracy great actress she was soooo

talented. Beulah Bondi is one of my favorite character

actresses of all time. Estelle Taylor is new to me would like to know more about her and what otherfilms she has done. This movie reminds me of the movie "Hotel" with

Walter Mattheu and Maureen Stapleton the same movie concept. Alfred Newman's score for this movie is like the song "Rhapsody In Blue" is worth the price of admission !!! thanks again ! I definately want to see this one or own a copy of it for my collection. lolly..

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Thanks for your excellent (as always) review, feaito! I too enjoyed seeing this film, which I think I saw on TCM many years ago. There was a lot written about it by A. Scott Berg in the Goldwyn biography he wrote. He mentions, among other things, how masterful Vidor's direction was (e.g. all the little camera angle techniques he used to make this stage play interesting to movie audiences). Additionally, most of the great cast from the Broadway play did their same characters in the film. Thanks for mentioning Newman's terrific score lolite!

 

Lastly, I'm almost certain that this was the first film in which I ever saw John Qualen, whose performance is wonderfully unique such that he's stayed with me and I've enjoyed spotting him in countless little roles since (though he played a more significant, than normal, role in "Out of the Fog", which moviejoe has mentioned).

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One night around 2:30am I was channel surfing and I started watching this movie on a PBS channel. It turned out to be "Street Scene" I was amazed that I never heard of this film. The set was all filmed on a Stoop(steps)stoop is what we call it in NY.I love Silva Sidney and I resently purchased "Fury" which is good also cause she is in it..didn't she leave millions to her pet dog when she pasted away? vallo

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Thanks for all the feedback friends.

 

And Path, I read Berg's Biography of Goldwyn, and IMHO was one of the most entertaining books I've read.

 

Alix, yes it was the beautiful Marcia Mae Jones.

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Thanks for this great review Feaito, you do a great service to us with them. I'm about to read your review for "Design For Living" next!

 

And I just want to say that I'm also a fan of Sylvia Sidney's. I think she's too forgotten in today's society, since she was always excellent as the tough, world weary gal. She was GREAT in "Dead End," the first movie I saw her in.

 

And I've heard of Scott Berg's bio of Goldwyn, since he mentions it a lot in "Kate Remembered," but I haven't read it. I'll be sure to now. And if anyone has the chance, try and see the American Masters special that was done on Goldwyn's life. It aired on PBS, and I caught it one night and it was EXCELLENT! It was the best documentary on someone's life that I've ever watched. In fact, I think it may have been done in conjunction with Berg's book. Either way, it's well worth watching.

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Thanks Joe,

 

You know what? I think taped the Documentary you mention last week, by chance, is it titled something like "Samuel Goldwyn, The man and his movies/films"?.... I'll watch it as soon as I can.

 

And BTW, I'm also a fan of Sidney; I'd love to see her in "An American Tragedy", "City Streets" and "Merrily We Go To Hell".

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  • 3 weeks later...

I finally watched this movie feaito- due to your wonderful review- and it was so real and exciting- all in such a small street . It even showed a back shot, close up of Beulah Bondi ( Ma Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life") picking the underwear out of her rear end!:)! I was so taken by this movie it was like you could walk back to the thirties and see what really went on in a poor neighborhood for a couple days. Very very nice. Keep the reviews coming, your taste is impeccable!

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